15 April, 2013 / General
And, if you did, how did you react? For me, one of the hardest aspects of parenting is knowing how best to react when someone does something annoying. Shrug it off, deciding that a small misdemeanour isn’t worth mentioning? Or launch into a full-scale telling off, with some kind of consequence?
For instance, say one of my kids has been asked to wash up. An hour later, I find dirty dishes still lying in the sink, all stinky with a film of scum on top. Then another of my kids loses the tenner I gave him to go to town with. Do I come down hard on one, or both, or no one at all? ‘All you can do is what feels right at the time,’ says my friend Adele. Fine, but isn’t there a more… scientific way of approaching this? Until someone enlightens me, I’ve decided to make up some guidelines of my own.
1. Best not to start anything when I’m premenstrual and can end up bubbling with fury when someone bites their toast in an annoying way. I’m better off just smiling benignly, as if the goings-on in my household are actually nothing to do with me.
2. Never allow other people to influence how angry I should be. ‘You never used to behave like that!’ my mother use to shriek, whenever my then pre-school boys used to squirt poster paint all over the kitchen table. ‘She’s right,’ I’d think. ‘I should be FURIOUS.’ So, in about 0.5 seconds, I’d go from being calm and rational to completely banshee-like – all because I’d absorbed my mum’s response, and reacted accordingly.
3. Never rake up misdemeanours from the past. Tempting thought it may be, there is nothing to be gained from barking, ‘I’m still annoyed about the time you smashed a hole in the garden wall.’ I should add that this happened in 2002. Get over yourself, woman, I think is the gist here.
4. Remember that overreacting only leads to me to handing out money to make up for being so horrible. So it’s expensive too.
5. If I get it wrong, I will be big enough to apologise.
6. Keep things in proportion. Whenever I’m stressed out, I’ll try to mentally fast-forward to being an older, wiser woman with kids not of sixteen, but of thirty-six, with grown-up lives of their own. A friend says that, when she does this, small misdemeanours suddenly seem unimportant. Of course, by the time they are that age, I will hopefully be too sozzled on sherry to worry about anything.
7. Finally, I shall try to remember that, on the occasions when I’ve really lost it, I have always felt like a complete ninny.